President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday called upon all the relevant stakeholders to maximize their efforts to increase the percentage of insurance coverage in the agriculture sector. The president, during a meeting on Crop Insurance organized by the Federal Insurance Ombudsman (FIO), at Aiwan-e-Sadr, said the crop insurance was essential for ensuring the food security of the country as well as the financial vitality of the farmers. He expressed his concern that crop insurance volume in Pakistan was less than 1% whereas even in neighbouring countries it was was around 4-5%. The meeting was attended by the Punjab Minister for Agriculture, Syed Hussain Jahania Gardezi, FIO, Dr Muhammad Khawar Jameel, representatives of the State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Banks Association, Asian Development Bank, and senior officials of the government. The president said that crops insurance and related matters should be included in the curriculum of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to sensitize and equip students regarding the importance of crop insurance. He said the students should also be sensitized on risk management, and shielding farmers from crop losses due to disease, pest attacks, drought, and manmade or natural disasters. He said that the Higher Education Commission should take the initiative in this regard and all relevant stakeholders should develop and enforce this curriculum. President Alvi said that poultry was a developed sector in Pakistan, and insurance products should be introduced to include such formal sectors under the insurance schemes. He said the relevant target population should be encouraged by launching an awareness drive to opt for insurance to safeguard their industry against disease, extreme weathers and manmade and natural calamities. He urged the need to set up innovative technologies in the agriculture sector including vertical farming, conservation of water, weather-resistant seeds and crops in a controlled environment, which although required minimum investment but gave maximum benefits. “Adopting modern farming and cattle raising techniques contribute in raising the current level of production manifold and would not only help the country to meet the food requirements but will be able to export agriculture products to other parts of the world”, he added. The president said that all insurance companies and stakeholders should launch a comprehensive and effective awareness campaign through all media to educate and inform the relevant public regarding their products, benefits and risks attached to them before the launch of the products. He said that Pakistan was one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and global warming, and was likely to face crises, such as water scarcity, depleting glaciers, and lowered underground water table around the country. He said that in order to cater to these issues, the country should evolve a comprehensive and well-thought-out mitigation and adaptation policy and implementation plan to safeguard people’s lives and their livelihood from the negative fallouts of global warming and climate change. The meeting was informed that a committee had been constituted under the Chairmanship of the State Bank of Pakistan, which was looking at the overall crop situation in the country and including non-traditional crops and cattle into the insurance portfolio. The committee would also look into developing user-friendly products for the target population of the vulnerable areas and small farmers as well as to develop insurance products for large scale and formal sector farmers. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) representative informed the meeting that ADB had instituted a grant of 10 million USD for research and development in the sector of food security with international collaborations to give policy-based loans to the affected farmers. He said that ADB would also include crop insurance in its portfolio to safeguard vulnerable farmers in crisis situations. The national insurance company informed that they were undertaking a pilot project in Sindh with Rs 40 million seed money to survey the target area, understand the crop patterns and set a baseline, and if due to any natural or manmade calamities or pest attack, the yield of the crops was below 80% of the normal, the farmers would be compensated for their losses.The president appreciated the initiative and stressed the need to bring more stakeholders into this project and also emphasized that there were many research and development funds available with the relevant international agencies which should be diverted to the project(s) of crop insurance. He said that all relevant organizations and stakeholders should set up exclusive and dedicated departments to identify such funds at the international/regional levels and make efforts to divert them towards their products relating to crop insurance. President Alvi also appreciated the idea of setting up an institutional framework at the national level with its own secretariat to take stock of the crops situation around the country. He urged all the stakeholders to develop a national policy on crop insurance by factoring in experiences of the past, setting up implementation goals on well-defined KPIs. He also called for setting timelines to achieve the objective of raising the level of insurance cover in the agriculture sector from current level of less than 1% to at least 4-5%.